I'm nearly at the end of the book -- some three pages in fact, having just looked -- and ... I don't know.
The author clearly has a very strong sense oI'm nearly at the end of the book -- some three pages in fact, having just looked -- and ... I don't know.
The author clearly has a very strong sense of Fact and Not!Fact. He spends a lot of time reviewing how Not!Facts get treated as facts, and diagramming the way conspiracy theories develop, interlock, and support each others lies -- the same names over and over.
And yet. If he does it in the last three pages, then it's more than I'm expecting. I'll do him the credit of assuming he wants you to draw your own conclusions. And so: human beings crave the illusion of order and narrative structure. The first thing we do out of any event is turn it into a narrative -- beginning, middle, end. Conspiracy theories save us from the terrible fear that there is no one in charge. We're all just making it up as we go along. Control is an illusion. Shit happens because we don't stop it in time,a nd we're not perfect.
It struck me very much, and I don't know how much of this was Aaronovitch's framing, that conspiracy theories are a way of letting yourself believe someone's in charge; there *is* a plan; you *can* fight against the things you fear.
Of course, it's a lie. Life doesn't come in narratives; people do things that make no sense. No one is omniscient and endowed with precognition. That hindsight is always 20/20. it's much easier to pick out the significant stuff once it's all over and you can decide which bits *were* the significant stuff.
It falls in closely with something that I've taken from Pratchett, on Pan Narrans -- the storytelling ape. We construct stories to make reality look manageable. They are lies, and we implicitly understand they are lies: incomplete and inaccurate. And as long as we remember that they are lies that are based on facts, and not lies based on lies, they are a useful shorthand. Right up until someone takes a French satire about Napoleon III and turns it into the Protocols of Zion, and causes untold grief, pain and death thereby.
It made fascinating reading, but the author didn't take the book where I expected him to. A little heavy going, repetitive in places, and his anecdotes re heavyhanded and unnecessary (possibly since I buy the basic premise that bright people can be gullible and credulous, given the right topic), and he starts losing his grip on his contempt every now and again. But interesting. And of course, one is free to draw ones own conclusions.
ETA: The last three pages *did* go into the tendency of the human mind to see patterns and construct narrative. I still think he'd have done better to pull the thread out sooner, and thereby strengthen the premise by illustrating his point rather than lining up all the illustrations and going: see what I mean?...more
I picked up a book thinking huh, Christmas present for my mother, and then somehow it was gone 1 in the morning and I'm still. reading.it.
I read the AI picked up a book thinking huh, Christmas present for my mother, and then somehow it was gone 1 in the morning and I'm still. reading.it.
I read the Anya Seton book, and I knew it probably wasn't quite like that, so when I saw a book on Katherine Swinford I may have pounced on it. I have mixed feelings about it.
Alison Weir takes a very small amount of cloth and cuts an exceedingly large coat from it. The cultural and political stuff is fascinating -- I remember enough from socio-economic history of the middle ages that this all slots neatly into the hundred years war, the black death and the Lollards.
And of course, there's Chaucer, and Lancaster and it's all good fun with 700 years distance :-). I did get a certain amount of whiplash from her attitude to Froissart -- depending on whether she likes the inferences or not he's reliable ... or not. And the whole business of taking a possibility and then treating it as established fact and relying on it for the next rather flimsy assumption -- and then taking to task other historians doing the exact same thing (such as assuming that every gift to Katherine related to her relationship with John, and then when similar or greater gifts are handed to other women then no, no those aren't evidence of affairs. Except when they are. *sigh*) is annoying and frustrating. Also, dishonest.
The fire which destroyed the Savoy Palace also destroyed key financial records. More importantly, so little remains from the fourteenth century that much of our history of that period is anecdotal and based on accounts never intended for the purposes to which they are now put, and which bear the weight of historical enquiry with varying degrees of success.
Weir makes no real attempt to derive Katherine's character except from the facts, and from a scattering of maybe fewer than fifty points it's hard to really feel that yes, this was the woman who captivated John of Gaunt. I was left fascinated but ultimately unsatisfied.
That said, it's a riveting read. Flimsy fabric and all. ...more
I have been wanting to read this book for years, and this coloured my reading experience. b The authors did not appear to be quite sure whether they wI have been wanting to read this book for years, and this coloured my reading experience. b The authors did not appear to be quite sure whether they wanted to write a discursive anthro text about the tribes and customs of children in Britain, or a careful, fully cited field report. Thismakes for a cluttered read, sometimes swamped with details and authorities,sometimes making a wseeping statement with no backgroundinformation.
It's a fascinating book nonetheless. The authors have mostly gone for describing and comparing to other texts to look at transmission over time and distance. The histories of some terms are startlingly lengthy; others are incredibly brief. Mostly I enjoyed it for comparing my own childhood memories from a school in Buckinghamshire in the seventies and eighties, and seeing the variations and changes -- and similarities. Some of the traditions they talk about I was passed on by my grandfather, some from uncles and aunts, most from that osmotic play ground life that seems so much time as a child, and really was at most an hour and a half each day.
Definitely an interesting read, and while I am not wholly convinced by some of the conclusions they draw about the societal rules underpinning some of the traditions still well worth the time to read it. I would have been more impressed if the writing style wasn't so patchy....more
Mostly I learned that Weinberger hasn't been paying attention.
Clay Shirky's article in 2005 on ontologies said it earlier, more succintly, and with leMostly I learned that Weinberger hasn't been paying attention.
Clay Shirky's article in 2005 on ontologies said it earlier, more succintly, and with less self-aggrandizement. Any man (and yes, I mean Weinberger) who gets halfway through a book that he starts by deriding librarians and then tries to reinvent Ranganathan while hoping that if he shoves in a couple of nifty anecdotes about the man librarians won't notice he's having to backtrack rapidly has missed the point, the boat, and the cluebus.
The attitude that librarians don't realise that virtual items can have 360 tagging is nonsensical in the extreme. The barest conversation with any cataloguer (I was one once myself) will make that clear. Librarians continue however to have to manage *physical* items, which is why we continue to use subject headings and classification. Digitised materials can be and are managed in quite different ways. That Weinberger doesn't realise this is a failure of his imagination.
If everything is miscellaneous, then nothing is meaningful. And that, too, is patently absurd. Sites such as flikr and delicious are using rankings of number of links, recommended links. Emergent tagging itself depends on people deciding for themselves that some things *aren't* miscellaneous, and assigning significence, preferring some terms over others, and building meaning by consensus.
Directed folksonomies may well be the way of the future, but they are anything but miscellaneous....more
I loved large parts of this book -- who wouldn't like to see someone hold up a mirror so kindly? Yet, the sections didn't quite make sense, the book aI loved large parts of this book -- who wouldn't like to see someone hold up a mirror so kindly? Yet, the sections didn't quite make sense, the book as a whole felt unbalanced and uneven, there was repetition that added nothing, and some of the animadversions on how to spot someone of a particular class owed more to stereotypes than to fact.
Which didn't stop it being entertaining, and I have to ruefully acknowledge that well, some stereotypes have a kernel of truth *g*
It's lent a certain amount of entertainment to subsequent conversations with fellow Brits too -- a little like playing 'watching the English Bingo' ;-)...more